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Candidates begin filing for 2018 races

Posted on Saturday, July 15, 2017 at 6:00 am

By Charlie Reed
For the News-Gazette
Still have a political hangover from the 2016 election cycle? No better cure than a hair of the dog that bit you.
National debates dominate the ongoing news cycle, but local races for key political offices in Osceola County are already taking shape.
Several candidates, including incumbents, have declared their intention to run for seats opening on the Osceola County Commission, Osceola School Board, Kissimmee City Commission and St. Cloud City Council in 2018. There are also several candidates who’ve filed to run for judge.
The Kissimmee City Commission, St. Cloud City Council and School Board are nonpartisan elections, meaning candidates’ party affiliations are not officially part of their election platforms. Elected judgeships are also nonpartisan races by design at the local and state levels.
Arguably the most interesting local race started this month when Kissimmee City Commissioner Wanda Rentas filed to run for Osceola County Commission in district 2. The seat is currently held by Commissioner Viviana Janer, who was elected in 2014 and filed her candidacy paperwork to seek re-election in March.
Rentas, a registered Republican, and Janer, a Democrat, have blazed political trails in Osceola County. Each one is the first Hispanic woman elected to their current position in office.
Both speak Spanish, which is likely to resonate with voters in district 2, which includes part of Kissimmee and unincorporated Buenaventura Lakes, a densely populated, Hispanic-majority enclave.
County Commissioner Cheryl Grieb and School Board Member Ricky Booth, both incumbents elected in 2014, also have filed to run for re-election. Two new candidates for School Board District 1 – Teresa Castillo, from Kissimmee, and Chris Mack, from Celebration – have also filed to run for the seat currently held by incumbent Jay Wheeler, who has held the position for more than a decade and hasn’t yet filed to run again. Kissimmee City Commissioner Jim Fisher and St. Cloud City Councilman Don Shroyer, representing seats 4 and 5 respectively, also have filed to run again next year.
Osceola County locals are also paying close attention to a nearby race for Florida House of Representative District 44. That’s because it includes Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce President John Newstreet. The Republican local business leader is up against four other candidates for the special election on Oct. 10. The seat opened when Gov. Rick Scott tapped Rep. Eric Eisnaugle to fill judgeship on the 5th District Court of Appeals.
“My candidacy is an opportunity for the business voice to be heard in Tallahassee,” Newstreet told the News-Gazette in May when he declared his bid for office.
Meanwhile, the Osceola County Supervisor of Elections is available to help residents and would-be candidates learn more about the elections process, how it works and who is running.
Each race requires candidates to pay certain fees and file specific paperwork, such as accounting disclosures for campaign contributions and a candidate statement, in order to get on the ballot.
The Election Offices provides most of the information online at www.voteosceola.com and also has a candidate coordinator on staff to help average citizens learn what it takes to run for elected office.
“We’re a one-stop shop,” said Amber Smith, a spokeswoman for the Supervisor of Elections office. If anyone has any questions they can always give us a call or come down and talk to us. We’re here to make here as easy as possible for people who want to run for office.”